Big Blue In Action: Birthday Party Brisket

Yesterday, after a week of cleaning, painting, bolting, etc., Big Blue was born.

Today, Big Blue gets its first test: A 7.8 lb brisket for a family birthday party (as opposed to the kid birthday party, which was yesterday). Our attendance list dropped due to a few sick cousins and a cancellation, so the extra brisket, a 4.5 pounder, can wait until another day.

I will use a paste similar to that used on the Super Bowl Brisket.


Since this is a much larger brisket, though, I will make a larger batch: one and a half 12 oz. bottles of brown mustard, 3 cups brown sugar, 1 cup paprika, a few generous spoonfuls of garlic powder & cayenne pepper. It gets wrapped up in foil and dropped in the fridge over night.

Dinner is at or soon after 3pm, so that means I had to get up bright and early to start Big Blue. My original plan was 7am, but a long evening of sampling a variety of beers made it closer to 8:30am.

Before I've even had any coffee

Today’s smoking wood is a change of pace – cherry wood chunks. Most grocery or large hardware stores have a mildly amusing selection of wood chunks. I prefer chunks because they last a little longer, sit on the coals easier, etc. Usually all you can find in chunk is Hickory or Mesquite. Not bad, but diversity is good. I found a surprisingly good selection of BBQ wood at my local Ace Hardware store.

After a little while, the thermometer read a steady 200 degrees. I checked on Blue a few times and it has stayed at 200.

With all the time I have to kill, why not work on some other projects around the house? How about taking an old, useless, bound-for-the-trash spice rack and turn it into a Lego shelf? My son is a Lego zealot and relatives / Santa have gifted him accordingly in the past few months, leaving us with many, many minifigures. He picked blue for the paint, similar to the smoker, and we glued on a few Lego boards that we cut to size. It turned out pretty cool.

From the scrap heap to your home

Back to the brisket. After 2.5 hours, the temperature gauge says 190 degrees. The brisket looks good, and the coal basket could use a few more coals and some wood.

Brisket after lots of cherry wood smoke

The thickest part of the brisket has an internal temperature of 160 degrees, so it is technically “done” in the food borne illness sense, but of course it needs plenty of additional slow cooking to tenderize. I flipped it over, put on the lid, and left it alone for another hour or so.

In the course of adding coals and wood, the temperature dropped to 150 degrees in the smoker, but no worries – it was back up to 175 in ten minutes and 200 in thirty minutes. In fact, an hour later it got really hot, up to about 300 degrees. Some of the wood chunks started burning. I pulled some of the extra wood and dropped it into a water bucket. It’s clearly going to take lots of practice to master temperature control on this contraption.

Eventually, after 3.5 hours of smoking, I wrapped it up in some heavy duty foil. As massive as this thing is, it needed a foil boat made out of two large sheets in an X. After adding a cup or so of apple juice, I tightly crimped it and put it back on the smoker. The internal smoker temperature is 250 degrees. I’ll be back in a few hours.

Time for a few hours of steaming

An hour into the foil wrapping, the temperature is still at 200 degrees. I tossed in some more coals, as the ones in the base had really died down. I caution against opening the smoker, though. Quite a bit of heat escaped and the temp dropped to 150 quickly. The great thing about the steel drum with the Weber lid is that, to steal a line from Case Stengel, it “sure holds the heat well.” I anticipated getting back up to 200 or so soon, which happened within the half hour.

When you get your ear close to the wrap, you can hear the apple / meat juices bubbling inside the foil. This is tenderizing in action.

Time to crack open a variety pack of beer.

G'day, Mate! Ok, not really Australian... horrible attempt at a joke.

The people at Dundee Brewery, the people who brought you Honey Brown Beer, came out with this nifty mix pack. I have to say that these are all very enjoyable beers. None is overpowering, each has a distinct taste. For some odd reason, this is a very affordable 12 pack of craft beer, to the tune of $10.99 at Schnuck’s. That’s fine by me!

Finally, at about 3:30 or so, about 7 hours after going on the grill, Mr. Brisket is ready to pull. Remember to let the meat rest for about 15 minutes to the muscle tissue can relax. This allows easy slicing. Sharpen that knife.


It sliced really well and we made sandwiches. I thought it was really good, just not quite as great as on the Super Bowl. I did not trim the fat from one side of the brisket prior to cooking, which may have prevented some of the paste / smoke flavor to penetrate that side of the meat. In hindsight, I will do that in the future.

I thought it was delicious, but I also felt compelled to add some seasoning at the end in the form of Frank’s Red Hot Sauce and a little provolone cheese on my kaiser roll.

Mighty tender, mighty tasty

Everyone was impressed by the capabilities of the smoker and the quality of the BBQ. In the end, as long as all attendees fill their respective bellies and enjoy themselves, that’s all that matters. This was a solid effort and I was happy to have seconds, then pick at the platter of leftovers. An intimate family party of three kids and eight adults wiped out the nearly 8 lb. brisket. Needless to say, I am up to the brisket challenge going forward.

There was one family member who was happy that I did not trim the fat before smoking:

BBQ beef fat? OMG! NOM NOM NOM NOM!!

NB: The dog ate the paper plate. Idiot.

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